Week 1 -- June 21-25

Monday I worked on getting the new computer (CNC machine) going by transferring important files from the computer provided by Levil, and got copies of SolidWorks? and ProE? . Unfortunately, there still wasn't internet on the CNC machine, so I wasn't able to install either of those. I tried getting internet for a while, which involved talking to/emailing various people, but that wasn't very fruitful. I also started messing around with understanding how the machine responds to standard Gcode commands and started a log of all the details that were out of the ordinary.

Tuesday I focused my efforts on getting internet going because I really needed to get going on working with ProE? . Eventually got the right people to contact the IT guys so that I was ensured a speedy fix to the problem. Continued working through the user manual for the machine. Still learning Gcode at this point, but getting better. Got M06 tool change to work correctly after correcting the "calibrated" tool positions from the manufacturer.

Wednesday- YAY INTERNET!!!! Got all the software up and running and started working with the NC Post Processor from ProE? .

Rest of Wed, Thurs, Fri- Kept working through the post processor, sometimes with the much needed and appreciated help of Dan "the man" Aukes. Ran simple Gcode programs on the machine from the GUI provided by the manufacturer and bug hunted like mad. There are a lot of problems with the software and hardware of this machine-- trying to figure out how to deal with a lot of these. On Friday I started working with a new version of the software (version 5.0), which fixed some of the bugs/oversights I had previously found, but introduced a whole new slew of them. Late Friday I started messing around with indentation.

Week 2 -- June 28-July 2

Monday, Tuesday, Wendesday- Continued working through post-processor and finally got it to a place where I think it is ready to be tested. Relearned how to create simple tool paths in ProE? . Also continued running simple GCode programs to find bugs. Spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to do the tool offsets on Wednesday, with no real luck. I had figured it out in the older version of the software, for some reason I couldn't figure it out on this one.

Thursday/Friday- Talked to Levil over skype and got a lot of the problems I was having figured out. They were able to explain to me how to work with some of the new features of version 5.0 of the software. They also explained a few of the inconveniences of the software-- still not very happy about some of these, but at least there was a conscious decision behind them. I also gave them the list of bugs I had found and they had them fixed with new software to me within an hour. After all of that, the machine was in a pretty good state, and with what time I had left in the day, I generated a tool path (although I had to use window milling because I forgot how to do a volume mill), and did a few careful/slow dry runs on the machine. Then I figured out how to fixture a scrap piece of wax and actually cut something!!! The dimensions were off though, because I ended up having a different size tool than I thought I did. Easy fix though. Also spent some time looking into fixturing systems, and played with indenting some clay. Spent some time looking into what SolidCAM? can do also. Looks like a really cool program, mostly because it's integrated with SolidWorks? , but also just because it is a lot more intuitive/has a better process based structure than ProE? in general.

Week3 -- July 5-9

Monday- University holiday!

Tuesday/Wednesday- created some more test pieces for the machine in SolidWorks? , but had a lot of trouble generating tool paths for them. I can't seem to figure out what I'm doing wrong with the volume milling, and I just haven't ever done surface milling. Worked to get a list of tools that we will want on the Levil. Also did a little more reading up on GCode from the HAAS manual. Looked into more fixturing possibilities.

Thursday- Sorted and cataloged all the mill tools we have in the lab so I could know which ones we will need to buy. Talked to Mark about indenting for a while. Spent the rest of the day writing a Matlab Function that will generate GCode for an indented array given an angle of attack, number of rows/columns, spacing between rows/columns, and the depth of indent desired. Then I tested that function out a few times and made a really quick rig to attach a razor blade to the CNC head. Poked some (large) arrays into a wax block-- pretty happy with the result.

Week4 -- July 12-16

This week was my purchasing week. Bernice and I are now best friends! I spent a ton of time online looking for a) tools for the Levil, b) materials to test indenting with, and c) random other little things that people in the lab asked for (like a latch for the oven). I bought different polymer clays from University Art in hopes of finding a clay to indent that would not have a grain size that is large compared to the scale of indentations. We are also hoping that the clays will be useful for simulating the soft metals that will be indented (on a much larger scale, obviously). I learned a lot about the sphere of influence an indentation can have even in a material as soft as clay. The problem I'm seeing from the clays is that when indenting a row of wedges, the previous indentations are being pushed closed. I worked a lot with the clays/corrected some of my indenting code while I'm waiting for tools and material to arrive.

Week5 -- July 19-23

Tools came in early this week. I was kind of concerned about the surface milling that happened last week, so I created another surface part and used one of the new, small, ball mills for a finishing pass. The result was much better than the previous run. I need to do a little work figuring out what optimal spindle speeds and feed rates are. I also spent quite a bit of time working on an adjustable razor blade holder for some "chisel" style blades I found at UArt. This was a frustrating process, as a lot of the materials I was trying to use were not strong enough for my original design. However, with the help of super glue and a 10 minute conversation with John, the design was modified and stronger. Finished up the holder on Thursday and also got some of the initial material in (copper and 2 types of Aluminum). I'll hopefully get to do some indenting with those early next week. I did some rough indentation work by hand under a microscope, and I'm hopeful that the results will be good. The entire day on Friday was devoted to setting the standard for what MERL barbecues should be for the rest of the summer. Lots of fun with Ben, Julia, Nesbitt, and Mark-- delicious Teriyaki burgers. Looking forward to an exciting work week ahead of me!

-- MarcusAlbonico - 24 Jun 2010

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